Lawyering for Social Justice

Law professor wins prestigious award as clinical educator

Written by Annie Beckmann
Photography by Chris Kalinko
May 27, 2016
As the recipient of the 2016 William Pincus Award, Bryan Adamson says he appreciates being honored by those he respects highly.

“The clinical law community has always been a special sub-group of law professors, close knit and singularly interested in advancing the cause of legal education. And in doing so, they keep in mind all it means to be a practitioner as well as lawyering for social justice,” says Adamson, associate professor in the School of Law.

The national award, the highest honor the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) bestows upon a clinical educator or institution, is named after the late William Pincus, a Ford Foundation executive who had the vision to create and expand legal services for the poor and clinical education for law students all in the name of improved access to justice.

The event, part of the AALS annual meeting earlier this year in New York City, featured opening remarks from Law Dean Annette Clark, additional perspective from a former colleague of Adamson’s from his days at Case Western School of Law and an introduction by Lisa Brodoff, associate professor of law and director of the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic at Seattle U.

“Brodoff, a musician, composed an homage to me!” Adamson says. “The warm, funny, spot-on lyrics were hers, but the tune was to ‘My Favorite Things.’ The entire audience sang it! It was amazing.”

With clinical legal education, clinical law professors teach and supervise second- and third-year law students while they engage in pro bono representation of clients.

“It’s very different to be here than at many other law schools. Social justice, economic justice and equality are not a fight at Seattle U, which is always forward-thinking with new ways of delivering that education and how to be of good to the surrounding community as well as the global community,” says Adamson, now in his 14th year at the university.

Clinical law professors today aren’t just clinicians, he notes, they’re also scholars. Adamson wrote more than 15 law review articles or book chapters published since 2001.

When she nominated him for the Pincus Award, Brodoff wrote, “In addition to his more traditional scholarship, Professor Adamson has been a leading advocacy voice in the academy for the most pressing legal issues of the day.”

Brodoff notes that when he directed the program from 2002 to 2006, Adamson oversaw the first big expansion of clinical education at SU, adding clinics in mediation, intellectual property and bankruptcy.

Adamson applied for and received a grant from the Washington state attorney general’s office to develop and teach what Brodoff describes as an innovative mortgage foreclosure practicum course where students counsel and represent homeowners.

In addition to the predatory lending clinic that he designed and implemented, Adamson also created a mass media law clinic and the community development and entrepreneurship clinic in collaboration with the Albers School of Business and Economics to address strategy, accounting, product branding, business development and labor issues.
Bryan Adamson Bryan Adamson is the recipient of the 2016 William Pincus Award.